As seen in The Birmingham News, Alabama.

Birmingham entrepreneur Chris Lewis, after two years of struggling to set himself apart from competitors selling janitorial equipment, has seen his business take off by focusing on the green stuff.

Lewis is president of L&S Enterprises, a distributor of janitorial products and cleaning solutions that are good for the environment. Lewis formed the company three years ago after leaving a position as supplier diversity director at Birmingham-based Motion Industries.

The first 2½ years, L&S sold traditional janitorial equipment and products, an industry he says "was not a good fit for us."

"When you can get the same product from five or six other people, it's hard to differentiate yourself," Lewis said. "We began looking for niche items in the janitorial arena."

Lewis, noticing the growing popularity of the so-called "green movement," changed his focus in December, concentrating on providing products catering to businesses wanting to help protect the environment. The move has paid off with business growing substantially, said Lewis.

While still offering traditional janitorial products, L&S focuses on selling such products as a self-cleaning toilet seat, water-less urinals, touch-free washroom accessories, propane lawn mowers, biodegradable can liners and green-certified chemicals.

"Green" products aren't cheap. L&S' water-less urinals range from $250 to $699, its toilet seats are $239 and propane riding lawnmowers vary based on size, with 61-inch units costing $14,500.

Lewis' clients include businesses across the Southeast that want to conserve energy and protect the environment. Last year, the Transportation Security Administration hired L&S to install waterless urinals in its restrooms at Birmingham International Airport.

Lewis said green-friendly initiatives are popular because of concerns about the environment. The issue is of vital importance in Jefferson County, he said, because of continuing ozone problems and last year's water drought.

"With surging gas prices, an erratic climate and recent water concerns we have all experienced, everyone realizes that we have to be good stewards of our environment," Lewis said. "Our population is outgrowing the world's natural resources."

Two weeks ago, Lewis teamed up with UAB's supplier diversity department and hosted a trade fair, "Making Alabama Green," that focused on environmentally conscious water conservation products and services. Lewis has a strong advocate in Birmingham City Councilwoman Carol Duncan, who operates the Birmingham Water Works Cahaba Pump Station.

Duncan said she met Lewis more than a year ago and is impressed with his compassion for the environment. She plans to ask federal officials to help fund green friendly initiatives in the city when Birmingham officials visit the Washington delegation later this year.

"The best way for us to improve the quality of life in this city is by protecting the environment," Duncan said. "We must do this for our children and grandchildren's future."

Lewis said running L&S gives him satisfaction in that he is building a business he can one day pass onto his children and spend more time with family. At Motion, he traveled 38 weeks a year, directing corporate identification, training customers on accessing e-commerce sites and heading its minority business outreach efforts.